Travels

Swimming with the whale shark

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Rhincondon Typus. With this little name the biggest fish in the world is called, of almost 12 meters, that inhabits the earth for approximately 60 million years but that humanity did not discover until in 1828 it was harpooned and captured one on the coasts of South Africa. With these precedents it is almost essential not to start a new (and expensive) experience for the improvised section "Swimming with ..." in which we have already enjoyed the Dolphins days ago with turtles in solitude and freedom in Maldives or of the impressive Yubarta or Humpback whales in one of the few places on the planet where you can, Vava'u (Tonga)


 

But for that it's early to get up again, even a little more than to go to Chichen Itza yesterday. At 5'45 we were already at the reception of the Kantenah, and the Blue Cenote carrier waiting for us ...

Contoy and Isla Holbox, a privileged area of ​​the planet

It is possible that if we had met Armando and Jesus before, we would have hired them by Whatsapp (as Coba and Chichen Itzá) Transfers to the departure ports to Holbox or Contoy, where they know accredited vessels to carry out this experience. However, today we had another series of customer collection routes before heading definitively to Cancun. Some of us fell asleep, others simply leaning on the window. Javi directly preferred to stay enjoying a well-deserved rest day at the Palladium. 2 inevitable hours of journey to Puerto Juarez await us.

And so we come to a small port / restaurant in Punta Sam around 9'00 where after paying what was agreed (MXN 2,310 per person), plus the port fee (MXN 40 per person), and Isaac renting a wetsuit for MXN 150 (you can choose between going with a wetsuit or vest, the latter gratuitous), We had breakfast before starting the experience.


 

Why Contoy or Holbox? Although this species of marine fish lives a large part of its time in inland waters, it is possible to see it in coastal areas at certain times in several places of the planet, from areas of the coast of Tanzania including Zanzibar, to areas of Panama, Dosol in the Sea of Philippines, Maldives, Mozambique, South Africa or Mexican coasts, and practice swimming with them in the Philippines itself or where we are heading.

But this area has something that no other place on the planet has to do that there is the largest concentration of visible whale sharks in the world between June and September. We are in a Biosphere Reserve of 146,000 hectares, where the effects of marine currents, together with the concentration of nutrients, presents a unique richness which makes thousands of mollusks, crustaceans, birds or marine mammals migrate around here at some given time.

Our boat is about to leave although it seems that there is a couple that has not yet arrived. After 10 minutes they finally appear. Now, we are the 8 visitors who are looking for a different experience. And it is that these boats do not admit more since everything is very regulated and also impoverish the epic (only gets off two by two). !!Here we go!!

A huge fish that is not a shark or a whale

The speed that these boats reach scares. However, it is necessary since we are going to an area of ​​deep water really far from the coast and still we have !! 1 hour trip!


 

Gradually our captain slows down. It seems that we have reached the privileged area we were looking for, although there are quite a few other boats. Possibly a few years ago the experience was more virgin but now there are many companies that offer it. However, what could partly detract from the adventure does not happen because if there is always a great agglomeration of whale sharks, this year there is more than !! 750 copies !!... What is that silhouette in the water?


 

We begin to look from one side, to the other, to the bow, to the port ... we are surrounded by specimens! We never thought to see so many. And the most incredible, we do not know if because of their size or because of their "philosophy of life", they are not immuted with everything around them.


 

Whale sharks they are docile creatures, which only feed on placton and do not attack man. Its belly is totally white, but its torso is much darker than other known sharks with skin that can reach up to 10 cm thick.

In sight, and especially now that they are so close to our boat, they become terrifying if it were not for all the information we have about them. And some can measure up to 12 meters and weigh 20 tons.


 

Its most particular part is undoubtedly the mouth. In that huge and flattened head houses a mouth that can measure up to 1.5 meters wide And that is essential for their diet. Together with the basking shark and the boquiancho, it is the only shark that uses the water filtration mechanism to feed on phytoplankton, necton, macroalgae and grill.


But the best of the experience starts at the moment we put on the snorkels and start down two by two next to the monitor, which is scrupulously respected. First as a precaution, since although they are harmless animals, their large size and weight could cause some misfortune. Second because it is so regulated and there are patrols that control it from a distance, which seems logical.

Nobody is left without their moment, especially because not only you go down once, but as many times as you need until you are satisfied. They already have two very important conditions ... We are in the open sea! The effort and feeling of dizziness both inside and outside the water (especially standing on the boat) is important. The second, that each descent lasts long enough to enjoy many moments with such a mole, take videos and even photos and enjoy!

Silvi, Paula and Isaac we take turns two by two. Jumping from the sideboard when they tell us, we swim slowly equipped with our snorkels and fins provided until we reach them until almost touching them (of course, we try to avoid it to respect it). The fish remains undeterred before our presence.


 

his movement is slow and slow, opening the mouth with a slightly inexpressive face, while fluttering from side to side.


 

They are usually accompanied by some fish, rods, which take advantage of the movement and bubbles generated by the shark-whale feeding movement, something very similar to what certain birds did with the buffaloes of the Kazinga Channel in Uganda or in Kenya's own Nakuru Lake And that seemed curious to us.


 

It seems that in addition to this time between June and September in the Mexican Caribbean, there is another good season to enjoy them in Donsol, Philippine Sea, between January and May, with also a great concentration, although in somewhat more murky waters. In the rest of places it already requires diving experience for your best vision.

The closer we are to them, the better we can observe a kind of moles that contain its gray body. This, like a network of horizontal and vertical lines, is whitish, giving it a certain aspect of "chessboard"


Although feeling a few meters away from them causes an important adrenaline rush, its peaceful appearance generates enough tranquility to want to repeat swimming next to it. Even to feel the whirlwind that causes the flutter of its huge tail.


 

¿!!! WHAT IS THAT SO HUGE THAT IT COMES THERE? What a scare we hit when we saw just half a meter away a huge line by our side. This we did not expect.


Overcome the shock, we continue our exploration as if we had to absorb all that experience that our body endured. We are in a state of important exaltation, and every time we feel more agile with the fins in the water next to them.


 

Something that we have loved to read is that after the discovery of this huge fish, and after numerous studies, a worldwide network of collaborators has been created that keeps interest in the species and its conservation alive, which means that it is currently not found endangered and seems quite respected.


 

Despite the fact that science is now advancing by leaps and bounds, it is still unknown how long the whale shark lives. It is known that some species of shark lasts up to 100 years and that until 20 they cannot begin to reproduce, but the evidence extracted from this species speaks of the 30 years as the beginning of sexual activity, which would imply (perhaps) even more longevity.


 

So, Shark or whale? The whale shark It is considered a shark, and also the largest fish that inhabits the oceans (at least known). It has not been too clear if it is viviparous, oviparous or oviviparous but what is clear is that the mother gives birth to them in eggs and they are born between 40-60 cm in size. From there up to 12 meters ...


 

Almost without realizing it, we don't know how much time we've spent here. We are exhausted from entering and leaving the water, and above all already quite dizzy from the hustle and bustle of the boat. Abstain those who get dizzy easily or take good biodramines! It is time to return ...

Postal and return corners

Although there is nothing comparable to what has been experienced, and while the boat begins to pick up speed for 45 minutes that separate us from Isla Mujeres, our thoughts were unaware that some surprises were still waiting for us in this adventure.

The first came in the form of a small snorkell already in a swimsuit without neoprene or vest at the entrance point of Isla Mujeres. Today we also came with those swimsuits from The Indian Face that we like so much as we discussed in our section "TRAVEL WITH ESSENCE: First dip, with style"and how much sense does a day like today have of that adventurous spirit with which we feel so identified


Certainly, the place is more interesting for its coral waters and its many shades of blue in addition to the necessary dip at this time, which we could see in it in the form of marine life.


 

The other destination that saved our day was a few meters from here. It was about one of those corners that we all imagine when we talk about heavenly places and that had nothing to do with what we saw in the Isla Mujeres excursion last day 8 trip Now we understand that it was a mistake.


The shore, with white sand and incredibly turquoise blue water (from which we had not seen since our little sky of Kandholhu in Maldives) barely covers at waist level. !! It is the perfect place to eat !!


 

So, while we swim, we get off the boat some cool beers and some really delicious shrimp ceviche glasses. Of those snacks that are not given every day, right?


 

After enjoying this dream place placidly, we leave at the beginning of the day, whose port is now transformed into a restaurant. Here we give the propinilla of turn (20 MXN). We return the wetsuit (and they give us back the ID we leave bail), we dry and change quickly and We headed south, where Javi is waiting for us.

The journey is again another beating, with 2 hours of road and three stops to leave people. Not all can be perfect.

Arriving still gives us time to eat something in the 24 hours of the beach, get dressed for dinner and meet Javi, which has also enjoyed as a dwarf a day of sun and the services offered by the Grand Palladium (FULL ARTICLE of accommodation HERE).


Today for dinner, and say goodbye to a great day, we chose the japanese themed restaurant which, like the last ones tested, leaves us a great taste in the mouth with a great variety of dishes and a lot of quality. Of course, to have room on the plate you have to book at the White Sands reception in the morning after 8.


 

After our usual farewell cocktails of the day and some show, now it is time for take the bed, we are really tired !!!. It has been an exciting day and, best of all, we still have two left to recover before returning. Do you guess what we are going to dedicate?


Isaac, Paula, Javi and Silvia, from Riviera Maya (Mexico)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 4,870 MXN (approx. 298.77 EUR)

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